polian (polian) wrote,
polian
polian

the Russians, religious heretics emboldened by their faith

Сходить что ли, посмеяться? Ведь я пропущу концерт Евгения "Вагановича" Петросяна в Долгопрудном 1 апреля (афиши видели аж на физтеховской столовой, где сейчас уже вообще ничего не висит), но хоть тут наверстаю. Про Русских Еретиков спрошу. Ну и по заголовку (NAMING GOD, NAMING INFINITY: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity): а что, математика уже не убивает креативность? А Фурсенка-то и не знает...

Niels Bohr Archive History of Science Seminar
Friday 3 April 2009, 14.15 Aud. M, Niels Bohr Institute Blegdamsvej 17, Copenhagen


Loren Graham, MIT and Jean-Michel Kantor, Institut de Mathématiques de Jussieu, Paris

NAMING GOD, NAMING INFINITY: A True Story of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity

This story combines mathematics and religious heresy, a tale in which Russian
mathematicians who were religious mystics (Dmitri Egorov, Nikolai Luzin)
triumphed over French mathematicians (Émile Borel, René Baire, Henri Lebesgue)
who were secular rationalists. In the early twentieth century mathematicians,
following the work of Georg Cantor in set theory, faced a major problem: it was
possible to conceive of sets of infinite numbers, sets which resisted rigorous
definitions. But was it mathematically sound to work with such sets? Two groups of
mathematicians intensively studied this question, the French in Paris and the Russians
in Moscow. The French, rigorous rationalists, doubted that such sets were justified;
the Russians, religious heretics emboldened by their faith, freely created such sets.
The Russians noted that they could not give a definition of either "God" or their new
sets, but they nonetheless had faith in the reality of both. They answered the question
"How do we know such sets of infinite numbers exist?" in a similar way to "How do
we know God exists?": "We know both exist," they maintained, "because we can
name both and treat them as real." These Russian mathematicians were called "Name
Worshippers" and were a part of a religious heresy spreading in Russia. The French
considered such an attitude mystical nonsense, and they lost their nerve to go
forward. The Russians plunged ahead and created a new field of mathematics,
establishing at the same time the famous Moscow School of Mathematics. And they
changed the face of the mathematical world.
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